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France's Alstom board favors General Electric bid

The board of French engineering conglomerate Alstom has unanimously approved a bid for its energy business from US-based company General Electric. France's Socialist government is also trying to secure a stake in Alstom.

Alstom's board of directors announced the next steps for their power-to-rail group on Saturday, the latest move in a

long-running international tug-of-war

over the company.

"The board of directors unanimously decided to issue a favorable opinion of GE's offer" and will begin consultations with personnel, a statement said.

Alstom added that

the GE deal

"not only addresses the interests of Alstom and of its stakeholders but also provides assurances in connection with concerns expressed by the French state."

Those concerns include the fear that jobs and engineering expertise would be moved away from France.

Government seeks stake

The board's approval comes a day after France's Socialist government stepped into the battle for Alstom, saying it favored General Electric's 12.35-billion-euro ($16.8 billion) bid over a rival joint bid from Germany's Siemens and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

At the same time, Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg announced the government's intention of taking a 20-percent stake in the company, which would make it the biggest shareholder.

The government was on Saturday continuing with negotiations to buy that stake from the

French construction company Bouygues

, which owns 29 percent.

Speaking to reporters in Paris, French President Francois Hollande warned failure to reach a deal on the price of the stake could disrupt the plans.

"If this sale did not go ahead at a price acceptable to the government, it would be necessary to reconsider the alliance as it has just been announced," Hollande said.

se/bk (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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